Instability in Burkina Faso
After the Burkina Faso September military coup, United States President Joe Biden cut Burkina Faso from The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The political instability in Burkina Faso that prompted the AGOA removal designates Burkina Faso as a blacklisted, non-democratic nation. The recent political instability in Burkina Faso led to the loss of U.S. trade, economic aid and military support.

AGOA is U.S. legislation approved in May 2000, to support sub-Saharan African economies and improve economic relations between those countries and the U.S. The AGOA provides sub-Saharan African nations with U.S. duty-free access to more than 1,800 products. That allowance is beyond the more than 5,000 duty-free products under the Generalized System of Preferences program.

Background of Political Instability

Political instability and limitations in both trade and humanitarian aid are not new issues in Burkina Faso. In fact, the September coup was the second one in 2021. Army captain Ibrahim Traore seized power from military leader President Paul-Henri  Damiba in September, citing “his inability to deal with an armed uprising in the country that has worsened in the past nine months.” However, Burkina Faso was already experiencing effects from the first coup, in which Damiba orchestrated an uprising against President Roch Marc Christian Kabore in January. At that time, the U.S. paused a $450 million aid effort.

The political instability in Burkina Faso could exacerbate already desperate conditions. During seven years of radicalized military terror with connections to ISIL and al-Qaeda, the hunger crisis intensified. In fact, the United Nations has even reported that “the humanitarian situation in Burkina Faso has become so dire that some women and children have eaten only leaves and salt for weeks.” U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martha Griffiths claimed that “Growing insecurity and blockades in many areas have left communities cut off from the rest of the country and facing growing hunger. Aid workers are struggling to reach these people who need assistance.”

Economic and Military Impact of Political Instability in Burkina Faso

The removal of Burkina Faso from the AGOA is particularly relevant for those concerned with U.S. legislative foreign aid decisions because legally if the U.S. State Department determines a democratically-elected government experienced an unconstitutional removal, the U.S. must suspend all non-humanitarian aid. Importantly, the U.S. is Burkina Faso’s largest international donor.

Burkina Faso also lost access to the markets of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) markets. ECOWAS is the trade union of West African states and it strongly condemned the coup and pushed for elections as quickly as possible.  It claimed that Burkina Faso was close to restoring constitutional order so the coup was incredibly “inopportune.” Journalist Sam Mednick  claimed, “If Traore is not going to be able to show tangible progress quickly, people say he’s going to be ousted just like his predecessor.”

Militarily, the U.S. also provides surveillance, intelligence, air support to the French who intervened against militants in the Sahel. The U.S. also provides intermittent training to Burkina Faso’s security forces. Elizabeth Shackelford, a senior foreign policy fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs suggested that because military support has not proved productive, the U.S. and its partners should put funding and effort into supporting democracy-fostering institutions.


Luckily, the European Union (EU) is still earmarking funds for aid in Burkina Faso. Specifically, the EU has set aside 52.4 million euros to address food insecurity, malnutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, education and disaster preparedness. International non-governmental organizations will also still be able to provide aid. For example, Save the Children focus on Burkina Faso education, public health and protection. Specifically, for public health, Save the Children advocates for “universal access to health care and an increase in the health budget.” In regard to nutrition, it supports food assistance programs. For malnutrition, it provides screening and long-term care for affected children and families.

Outlook for the Future

Political instability in Burkina Faso is jeopardizing specialized aid to fight jihadism. Burkina Faso’s recent unconstitutional coups resulted in the cessation of all non-humanitarian aid in compliance with U.S. law.  Fortunately, the EU and international non-governmental organizations continue their support for Burkina Faso’s citizens plagued by political instability and its effects. Hunger, education and public health are often the primary focuses of many of these organizations, and if these programs remain operational, perhaps Burkina Faso can persevere until the political instability subsides.

– Braden Hampton
Photo: Flickr

Namibia's AGOA Utilization StrategySince 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been an important part of U.S. foreign and economic policies. It provides incentives for African countries “to open their economies and build free markets.” By promoting commercial ties, the U.S. benefits from trade with African countries that are eligible to participate. Additionally, the African countries also benefit from a growing and more prosperous economy. This enhanced development creates new jobs in underdeveloped countries and helps build a more sustainable economy, aiding in poverty struggles. Namibia, a sub-Saharan African country, is a prime example of the positive development and economic impacts of AGOA. Not only does Namibia implement AGOA with U.S. support, but on May 10, 2021, the country initiated the AGOA Utilization Strategy for tariff-free exports. Namibia’s AGOA Utilization Strategy promises economic growth benefits for the country.

Namibia’s Background

Namibia is a country in Southwest Africa with a population of 2.5 million. The status of poverty in Namibia is not as extreme as in other African countries. Nevertheless, 28.7% of Namibians are impoverished and 15% live in extreme poverty.

While the World Bank classifies Namibia as upper-middle-income, the country still remains a developing country. Namibia has been negatively affected by social and economic imbalances stemming from apartheid, heavy agricultural reliance and structural inequality. Namibia’s Gini coefficient value reflects the immense suffering Namibians face due to socio-economic gaps. Namibia has a Gini coefficient of 0.597, establishing it as “one of the most unequal countries in the world.”

In terms of economic freedom, Namibia boasts a sixth-place ranking out of 47 sub-Saharan African countries with an overall ranking scoring above regional and global averages. While Namibia’s economic success is positive in comparison to other African countries, the country still faces considerable socio-economic disparities and the U.N. still considers Namibia an underdeveloped country. With the introduction of AGOA into African economies, the development and economic growth of participating countries show a hopeful future for Africa.

AGOA Background

Former President Bill Clinton initiated the African Growth and Opportunity Act on May 18, 2000. Clinton initially designated 34 sub-Saharan African countries as eligible for AGOA, allowing for trade benefits between the U.S. and participating African countries. Not only would this law boost participating economies, but it also redefines U.S.-Africa relations. Today, about 40 sub-Saharan African countries are eligible to be AGOA beneficiaries.

Since the start of AGOA implementation, participants’ combined exports increased 500% from $8.15 billion to $53.8 billion between 2001 and 2011. The creation of AGOA through U.S. legislation proves favorable for African economic growth and aims to reduce poverty in the African continent.

Namibia’s AGOA Utilization Strategy

While the implementation of AGOA in Namibia follows the passing of the U.S. legislation in 2000, Namibia only recently decided to make full use of the program. To fully utilize AGOA, U.S. ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson, joined minister of industrialization and trade, Lucia Lipumbu, to launch the AGOA Utilization Strategy in Namibia in May 2021.

The new strategy seeks to increase Namibia’s U.S. exports to more than 6,400 tariff-free products. Additionally, the plan addresses policy, supply and market challenges faced in Namibian trade, using public and private sector representatives to execute the AGOA strategy.

Namibia’s AGOA Utilization Strategy expands mutually beneficial trade, improving the economy and fostering alliance between the U.S. and Namibia. The African Growth and Opportunity Act proves helpful in strengthening economies, fostering development and encouraging global networking. Support for African growth and opportunity efforts is mutually beneficial for all those participating in the global market, with the ability to improve living standards in underdeveloped countries.

Kylie Lally
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Africa
Though the extreme levels of poverty in Africa are what typically define the continent, it has seen rapid economic growth as foreign nations increase investment in sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S. seeks to expand and increase trade with Africa by way of economic development initiatives. The following article describes two U.S. initiatives that create a mutually beneficial relationship between the U.S. and Africa. These initiatives seek to fight poverty in Africa and accomplish the humanitarian and economic goals of both parties involved.

African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)

The African Growth and Opportunity Act increases sub-Saharan Africa’s accessibility to the U.S. market with duty-free access to many U.S. commodities, incentivizing investment in the goods of U.S. companies. Sub-Saharan African countries that wish to attain and keep eligibility for AGOA must be actively working towards improved rule of law, human rights and labor standards. This means that these countries must minimize the poverty levels their citizens face. The desire to be part of these trade acts motivates many countries to improve upon their standards of living.

Through the benefits of AGOA, Kenya has become a top exporter of apparel and macadamia nuts to the U.S. Ethiopia now generates about $20 million in footwear exports. South Africa, the largest AGOA beneficiary by value, has increased exports to the U.S. threefold since 2001, totaling $2.9 billion in 2015, and is developing a booming automobile industry. The agriculture industry in South Africa has also flourished under AGOA. The citrus sector alone has generated 85,000 new jobs in South Africa. Since the implementation of AGOA, sub-Saharan Africa beneficiary countries have increased non-energy exports to the U.S. in total by 57.8%. These economic developments create thousands of new jobs every year which helps eradicate hunger and poverty in Africa.

American companies are also benefiting from AGOA. An example is American Augers Inc., who is adding new jobs to its factory by growing its exports to Africa. By committing to laying the fiber optic infrastructure across all of Africa, American Augers Inc. was able to expand and grow its business. This is but one company’s example of how increasing U.S. export to Africa provides jobs anywhere from factory workers to farmers throughout America.

Prosper Africa

Prosper Africa is a recent extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Due to U.S. foreign direct investment statistics in Africa recently declining, Prosper Africa is the Trump administration’s initiative to double two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa. Making this initiative unique from the original AGOA, Prosper Africa creates a one-stop-shop of U.S. government support services to aid U.S. and African businesses and investors. The initiative also promises to negotiate at least one new bilateral free trade agreement in Africa. This type of agreement can significantly improve the economic activity of a country. For example, the U.S. signed and enforced a free trade agreement with Morocco. Within a decade, U.S. imports from Morocco doubled and U.S. exports to Morocco roughly quadrupled.

Small U.S. businesses in particular are benefiting from the improved, mutually beneficial business climate the initiative creates. An example is the Environmental Chemical Company. While the firm attains economic success through commercial opportunities now made available in Africa, the people of Nairobi, Kenya and the surrounding area are also benefiting from the environmental restoration and social services that the U.S. company is providing. As more U.S. businesses invest, the statistics of poverty in Africa should only see improvement.

Overcoming Poverty in Africa

In a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics from over a decade ago, estimates determined that removing trade barriers and opening up more countries to the global market could help fight poverty in Africa by bringing as many as 500 million people out of poverty and putting $200 billion a year into the economies of those developing nations. AGOA and Prosper Africa’s efforts show that the numbers that the Peterson Institute predicted are an attainable future goal. With increased employment and reliable income, people of sub-Saharan Africa can lift their families above the poverty line. As the fight against poverty in Africa causes poverty rates to decrease, the purchasing power of the region should increase, allowing access to untapped markets.

Hanna Rowell
Photo: Wikimedia

Misconceptions about gender in educationApproximately 115 million children of primary school age are not enrolled in school. Another 37 million African children will learn so little in school that attending may not be as advantageous as saving money or putting the children to work. However, education is paramount for improving the economic status of individuals and improving the social and economic standing of communities.

In general, the cost of attending public schools in developing nations is the responsibility of students, families and faculty. Books, supplies and teachers’ salaries are usually the responsibility of students’ families. Cost is only one reason for low school attendance.

Of the children not enrolled in schools, 53 percent are girls. In many cases, girls are denied schooling as a result of the misconceptions about gender in education which place less value on educating girls as opposed to educating boys. The belief centers on traditional gender roles which place more value on women in the home.

Some of the top barriers to education around the world include lack of funding, teachers, classrooms and materials as well as the exclusion of girls and children with disabilities. The reasons for these barriers differ across borders but there are explanations that blame the inequality on misconceptions about gender in education in terms of future success, wages and family planning.

The following facts have been determined to debunk common misconceptions about gender in education in developing nations:

  • Educated women and girls are less vulnerable to HIV as well as various forms of exploitation.
  • Each additional year of education mothers receive reduces child mortality by two percent.
  • Each additional year of schooling for women is associated with a 10 to 20 percent wage increase.
  • Women re-invest 90 percent of their income into their families

Studies have also shown successes in longer school weeks in countries like Colombia. Longer school weeks keep students occupied and prevent exposure to commonly risky situations. Improving access to education for girls has a vast economic impact which increases families’ ability to afford to send more children to school and allows parents to work longer.

This information has spurred initiatives to improve education worldwide specifically for young girls. One initiative is the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) whose top priority is ensuring access to complete and quality education for girls with the aim to increase the percentage of girls completing primary school from 74 percent to 84 percent by 2018.

There are several pieces of legislation that have been introduced that aim to improve education and economic status for women. These include the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act and the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

The most recent success for legislative activism is the passing of the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act that promotes universal access to basic education for children across the globe especially girls. These acts are reliant upon constituent action so it is important to contact congressional leaders to support them.

– Rebekah Korn

Photo: Flickr

AGOA and MCA Modernization ActThe African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, was passed into law by the 200th Congress on May 18, 2000. The bill was renewed up to the year 2025 in 2015, during the Obama administration.

The primary purpose of the AGOA legislation is to establish a new trade and investment policy for sub-Saharan Africa, along with expanding trade benefits to the Caribbean Basin. The bill greatly improves the access that sub-Saharan African countries have to the U.S. market.

AGOA seeks to expand U.S. aid to regional integration efforts made by sub-Saharan Africa, strengthening and building upon the private sector in the area, particularly with small businesses and industries owned by women. Encouragement of investment and trade is emphasized by AGOA legislation, as it is indicative of economic development and increased participation in the political process.

To qualify to receive the benefits of AGOA, these countries must follow a set of standards included in the legislation. The eligibility standards include improving its rule of law, following core labor standards and meeting human rights goals. In addition, an acting president has the authority to take away AGOA benefits from any country if it is deemed that a country is not continuing to meet the requirements for eligibility.

“AGOA is AGOA and not just about trade – it’s a relationship framework as I like to say – strategic, military, trade, aid, investment… any costs associated with trade are merely that, minor overheads,” said South African economist and creator of the portal, Eckart Naumann. “The U.S. would be foolish to tamper with this, or withdraw benefits.”

Naumann believes that AGOA has become vital to the interests of the United States along with sub-Saharan African countries. He says that Congress would most likely push back against any efforts to restrict it. U.S. companies and consumers benefit from AGOA due to free-market principles taking effect with both sides profiting from it, and the legislation helps create jobs.

Currently, Congress is considering the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act. The legislation serves as an extension of AGOA, and it promotes policies that foster trade and cooperation while also aiding eligible partners of AGOA. In addition, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act seeks to create a website that details the benefits of the program, give the Millennium Challenge Corporation more freedom to facilitate trade by permitting up to two compacts within one country and strengthen the accountability of the MCC by making the criteria for reporting requirements stronger. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, which was created through the Modernization Act, provides large-scale grants to help create economic growth opportunities in developing countries eligible for AGOA.

The AGOA and MCA Modernization Act was introduced to the House of Representatives in July as H.R. 3445 and to the Senate as S. 832 in April. Both the House and Senate have not yet made the decision to pass or reject the legislation.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Policy in Africa
In 2000, the Clinton administration established the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), drastically integrating trade as a foundation for economic development in Africa.

In 2015, the Obama administration passed legislation to extend the program until 2025 following the actions of its predecessor, the Bush administration in 2004. Initiatives that set a developmental precedent for Africa have been protected by the Obama administration, but it is paramount to the success of U.S. foreign policy in Africa that development attempts continued to be pursued.

The Power Africa initiative, born during the Obama administration, aims to substantially increase access to electrical conduits and power sources to throttle growth and development in Africa.

Developed in collaboration with the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), a projected $3 billion was to be contributed in the initial five years by the AfDB. Methods for allocating power to citizens of sub-Saharan Africa are imperative in establishing partnerships with private investors to facilitate bankable energy initiatives.

The Obama administration reports that private companies and the African government have reached more than a quarter of their goal to generate power for over 3.5 million homes in sub-Saharan Africa. The initial goal to increase power by double within five years was not accomplished, however, much headway was made toward the program’s successful future.

The conclusion of the 2016 presidential elections will be key in determining the likelihood of the security and development of Power Africa, as well as other global health and economic aims for U.S. foreign policy for Africa in 2017.

The United Nations lists the progress of global partnerships for development as Africa’s eighth Millennium Development Goal in attempts to accomplish the major goal of economic growth potential. Further attention to the development of programs such as Power Africa during 2017 amid the next presidential administration is vital to the outcome of such economic integration of Africans into the world market and to foster local businesses.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr